Mr. Speaker, once again I am pleased to speak to the amendments. We are now debating Group No. 4. In this grouping our party has two amendments. I will speak to those amendments as well as others. These amendments have been grouped together, as a number of them work in conjunction with each other.
There are two areas in this legislation about which I am concerned. One of the areas has been dealt with to a certain degree and we will get to it a little later when we debate the amendment with respect to the inclusion clause. Exclusion and inclusion are very serious components of this legislation and should be amended in order to improve the legislation.
The second area about which I have very serious concerns is the governing section of the legislation. There have been substantial improvements put forward in this legislation which improve the existing governance of the Canadian Wheat Board.
For those who do not know, the current governance of the Canadian Wheat Board consists of a membership board, a commission if you will, with a maximum of five commissioners. Currently there are three commissioners acting as the head of the Canadian Wheat Board. There is also an advisory board. The advisory board is made up of elected representatives, but the advisory board has absolutely no power. It is a eunuch. It simply advises not only the commissioners but the minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board.
As proposed, this legislation would improve that governance. In fact, there would be 10 elected board members out of the 15 who will comprise the membership of the Canadian Wheat Board. Ten will be elected and five will be appointed.
In our motion we have proposed a change to make it a fully democratic board of 15 elected members. There is no reason the government should have any objection to having a fully accountable board of directors elected by the producers.
A precedent has already been set with respect to this type of governance. The Ontario wheat board has a fully elected board of directors. It makes sense that a parallel organization, the Canadian Wheat Board, should have elected members.
The government will say because it has certain requirements and certain guarantees that are outstanding for the Canadian Wheat Board that it has to have five appointed members of which one is the chief executive officer. That is absolute hogwash. It is not necessary.
As part of governance there is a manager, a chief executive officer, referred to in the legislation as president. The president under this legislation will be appointed by the government and the minister.
I can say from experience I have had in the House over the very short period of time that the government has not given us an awful lot confidence in those people it will be appointing to the position of chief executive officer.
There have been examples of people who do not understand the business of being appointed as chief executive officer. This is not the chairman of the board. This is not a board member. This is the individual who is going to be taking a corporation from the year 1997 into the 21st century. Here is an individual who has to have an awful lot of business acumen, understanding of the business, understanding of the industry, understanding of trade arrangements and organizations in order for us to succeed as western Canadian grain producers.
This cannot be a Liberal patronage appointment, which unfortunately has been shown to happen many times in the past. I am very nervous of that situation. There is no reason why an elected board of directors cannot have the confidence placed in them to appoint and hire a chief executive officer. That is what these amendments speak to. They speak to the point that this chief executive officer should be hired and report to the board of directors who would hire him, not to report to the government and the minister who really have no understanding of what is happening to the Canadian Wheat Board.
I talk about governance. We have the board of directors and a chief executive officer. I have some further concerns when we talk about the current commissioners who are now operating the Canadian Wheat Board. They run under a very sheltered cocoon operation, obviously, having it as a monopoly corporation. It runs basically the same way now as it did in 1943.
I have with me a interview which was done by the current chief commissioner of the Canadian Wheat Board. It was given to the Manitoba Co-operator . I would expect that would be a fairly reasonable source and acceptable source by the members of government. It says Chief Commissioner Lorne Hehn said: “
I said to the minister if the board and the minister want me to be there, I will be there for one year but not beyond that', Hehn said after speaking a Manitoba pool annual meeting.I am prepared to do it, be the chief executive officers, but the price has to be right”'.
I have some concerns about that because, quite frankly, what has to be right has to be right for producers and Canadian farmers, not what is right for a chief executive officer or for a minister of the crown. It has to be right so we can put into place the proper marketing measures to compete in a global society right now, to compete in a global marketplace where there is substantial competition.
So that speaks to these amendments, where in fact we should have a fully accountable elected board of directors and an appointed chief executive officer by the board.
Two other motions I would like to touch on. One is Motion No. 8. The reason I bring this up is I originally tabled this motion at committee and then withdrew it. It obviously found its way to the amendments here. I bring it to the attention of the House. It says “—rum at the meetings, which shall be at least two-thirds of the board”. That obviously means quorum, but when I read this I almost had unanimous consent of the committee.
However, the amendment is a legitimate and logical one. It speaks to a quorum being struck for the board of directors. It should be two-thirds board members and a ratio of two elected directors to one appointed director. For every meeting of the board of directors there has to be two elected members to one appointed member and two-thirds of the board present for a quorum. That makes good corporate, business sense.
I will be speaking against an amendment which is obviously not mine. It was an amendment put forward by the hon. member for Peace River. It speaks to the actual election of the board of directors and the criteria people must achieve before they can register a vote for the board of directors.
I understand where the hon. member is coming from because there are large and small producers. All producers should have a vote for the person they wish to have on the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board.
We will not be supporting the amendment. I appreciate where it is coming from and I understand why it is there. It has merit but it flies in the face of democracy. It should not be based on the number of bushels produced or the numbers of acres farmed. It should be that farmers and producers have the right to elect the board of directors.
In wrapping up on this section I do not know if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries would like to be the CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board. He seems to be heading in that direction. I have some concerns with respect to the appointment of the CEO.
In a brief rebuttal, let me say that a number of organizations and people are still very concerned about the inclusion clause. We will have a chance to speak to that in another category that is coming up.